Why Activated Charcoal Is The Detoxing Tool Everyone Is Talking About
When thinking about detox products, charcoal might be the last thing on your mind. No we aren’t talking about the charcoal used on a grill as it is extremely toxic. Instead, we are referring to a product called activated charcoal which is a natural detoxer that can have many uses – including some you might not expect!
When charcoal is activated by heating at high temperatures in airtight spaces it breaks down into a fine black powder. This powdered form increases its power through creating more surface area which gives the activated charcoal the ability to adsorb. And yes, I did mean adsorb. While absorption is when a product is dissolved into another, adsorption is a chemical process of one substance attaching to the surface of another substance.
Since activated charcoal has this ability to adsorb, it can be used to attract toxic chemicals from our body that can hurt us. When taken orally, these toxins will then move with the activated charcoal through our bodies and be removed as we pass the charcoal through our bowel movements. Activated charcoal has become more popular among the wellness world in the recent years for detoxing purposes but there are many other benefits that make this a great tool for elevating your health.
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1. Overdose + poisoning
Once thought to be a cure-all for all poisons and toxins, activated charcoal has been used for years by being administered (1) to anyone who is dealing with an overdose or poisoning. While now it is known that it does not work in every circumstance, it is still used by many, especially professionals, as a natural cure (2) for acute poisonings and overdoses. As activated charcoal moves through the body, the harmful substances adsorb to it and are then removed as it leaves the body through the digestive tract.
Activated charcoal can be used over-the-counter, but when dealing with a poisonous substance it is always important to seek professional help as well to make sure the correct dosages are administered, in the correct amount of time, and that it is the best option while avoiding dehydration. Again, while this is a great natural option, activated charcoal does not work for every poison toxin so it should not be used in emergency situations without the help of a professional.
As activated charcoal works with poisons, it also works with toxins that are present in the body. Unfortunately, no matter how much we try to avoid toxic products with our food and lifestyle choices, we can’t avoid every single toxins in our modern world causing toxins to build up in our systems. When these toxins build up, they can perpetuate chronic inflammation which can affect all aspects of the body.
Check out my previous article for signs you need to do a detox. If you find that any of these signs line up with what you are experiencing, using activated charcoal to detox may be a great option for you. Be sure to follow all directions on the packaging and stay hydrated.
3. Teeth Whitener
Another popular use for activated charcoal is teeth whitening. Food and drinks such as coffee and tea can stain your teeth, regular brushing combined with activated charcoal use can give you a brighter and whiter smile.
When you apply activated charcoal to your teeth or brush with it, it can adsorb the plaque and food particles left in the small crevices to remove it before it sits for long periods of time and stains. You can buy activated charcoal specifically for teeth whitening, but be sure to buy an organic brand with no additives or chemicals.
4. Digestive health
Activated charcoal can also help when a person is experiencing digestive distress. One study (3) showed that taking activated charcoal when experiencing bloating and gas actually minimizes the gaseous air found in the digestive system.
When taken quickly after eating food that can cause disruption, the activated charcoal adsorbs these foods before the body can absorb it into the system – causing less inflammation or symptoms. Now this isn’t an excuse to go wild and eat those foods you know aren’t the best for you, but rather a tool to use if you happen to be accidentally exposed to a food that gives you trouble. Remember, you can’t detox your way out of a bad diet. And why put it in your body in the first place if it’s taking you farther away from your health goals rather than closer to them?
5. Natural deodorizer
Just like chemicals and toxins will adsorb to activated charcoal in your body, it will also attract unpleasant or toxic aromatics. Because of this, it is used in many different deodorants and deodorizers.
Many companies sell activated charcoal purifiers that can be placed around the home or living spaces to continually clean and deodorize the air around you.
6. Lowers cholesterol
When taken multiple times a day for an extended period of time activated charcoal can also lower cholesterol (4) by significant amounts.
So go ahead and get some activated charcoal for yourself and see how it can make a difference in your health.
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- Villarreal J, Kahn CA, Dunford JV, Patel E, Clark RF. A retrospective review of the prehospital use of activated charcoal. Am J Emerg Med. 2015;33(1):56‐59. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2014.10.019
- Juurlink DN. Activated charcoal for acute overdose: a reappraisal. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;81(3):482‐487. doi:10.1111/bcp.12793
- Jain NK, Patel VP, Pitchumoni CS. Efficacy of activated charcoal in reducing intestinal gas: a double-blind clinical trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 1986;81(7):532‐535.
- Kuusisto P, Vapaatalo H, Manninen V, Huttunen JK, Neuvonen PJ. Effect of activated charcoal on hypercholesterolaemia. Lancet. 1986;2(8503):366‐367. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(86)90054-1
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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